Aug 17 2012

David Barton Tells Glenn Beck a More Obvious Lie to Refute the Refutation of a Less Obvious Lie

On Thursday’s episode of Glenn Beck’s web-based GBTV show, Beck’s guest was none other than pseudo-historian David Barton, who, as everybody knows by now, just got his bestselling book The Jefferson Lies pulled by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. Barton was on Beck’s show to refute the critics and save face with his followers. (And Beck will be publishing the next edition of Barton’s Jefferson book through his publishing arm.)

One of the lies that Barton has been telling for a very long time in his presentation and TV appearances is that Thomas Jefferson signed his presidential documents not just “in the year of our Lord,” but “in the year of our Lord Christ.”

For many years, Barton had claimed to have in his possession a document that proved that Jefferson signed his documents, but he had never revealed in his books or on his website exactly what this mysterious document was. I knew that it had to be some sort of document written by someone else that Jefferson had merely signed, but all I could do was guess at what it might be until October 2008, when I actually attended on of Barton’s presentations. At that presentation, Barton showed a corner of the document on the big TV screen, but not enough to tell what it was.

A few months after I attended his presentation, David Barton decided to bash me on his radio show, Wallbuilders LIVE! (which is actually pre-recorded; seriously, this guy can’t even give his radio show an honest name). At the October 2008 presentation that I attended, I had gone up to Barton and given him a copy of my 2006 book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History, a book that debunks dozens of the lies from his earlier books and videos. In January 2009, he decided to come after me on his radio show, where he not only lied about my book, but lied about our encounter at his presentation (which was pretty dumb considering he knew that I had the whole encounter on video, since my friend with the video camera had made no attempt to hide that we were filming it). But the details of all that are unimportant now, except for the fact that a couple of months later I decided to make a series of videos on YouTube showing not only that Barton’s version of what occurred at his 2008 presentation was not true, but debunking a whole bunch of the lies he had told in the presentation itself. I put these videos on YouTube in March 2009.

Since I mentioned this mystery document in my video series, and that Barton was deliberately trying to keep anyone from seeing what it was, guess what happened – an image of the ships’ papers document suddenly appeared on Barton’s website. Now I finally knew what Barton’s mysterious “in the year of our Lord Christ” Jefferson document was. This was a pre-printed form that ships leaving America had to carry (sometimes also referred to as a passport or a sea letter) that was printed by the hundreds, if not thousands. Each president signed a big stack of these forms in advance to be distributed to the all the ports, where they would be filled out as needed by port officials.

Fast forward to 2010 when Barton was appearing as a regular guest on Beck’s old show on FOX. I started making a series of videos that I called the “No, Mr. Beck …” series, each video debunking a different lie that Barton had told on Beck’s show, and posting them on HuffPo and in a few other places. One of these videos was titled “No, Mr. Beck, Jefferson Did Not Date His Documents ‘In the Year of Our Lord Christ.’” (If you can’t or don’t want to watch the video, I included a transcription of it when I first posted it back in June 2010.)


(The rest of the “No, Mr. Beck …” series videos can be found on the homepage of my website if anybody wants to watch the rest of them.)

Now, fast forward to April 2012. Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies is published, and, of course, the Jefferson ships’ papers lie that I had debunked way back in 2009 is in the book.

In May 2012, someone else who’s been writing some blog posts about Barton for the past couple of years puts out a little book refuting The Jefferson Lies, and includes a bunch of the lies that I had debunked in my book and my videos between 2006 and 2010. Among these was the one about the ships’ papers. This book refuting Barton’s book came out in May 2012, just a mont after barton’s book was released. (I’m also writing a book debunking The Jefferson Lies, but mine isn’t quite finished yet because I’m including a bunch of brand new, never used before lies that Barton came up for his new book and had to do some research to debunk those new ones.)

Now it’s August 2012, and Barton’s book has been pulled by it’s publisher. Barton needs to save face with his believers, and is quite mind-bogglingly managing to do just that. They all seem to still believe him, and lots of them are praying for him. Barton is well on his way to coming out of this whole thing virtually unscathed.

Now, Barton’s face saving certainly would not be complete without an appearance on his pal Glenn Beck’s show, which is where we get to the reason for the title of my post. You’ve probably already forgot what the tile was, right? OK … so you don’t have to scroll all the way back up to the top and lose your place, it was “David Barton Tells Glenn Beck More Obvious Lie to Refute Debunking of Less Obvious Lie.”

So, what was this more obvious lie that Barton told on Beck’s show? Watch this clip from the show, where Barton is attempting to refute the debunking of his ships’ papers lie, and you’ll hear it.


Did any of you history buffs catch it? Barton’s example of Jefferson not bowing to another government entity when he was president was that he released the men imprisoned under the Sedition Act, even though it was a federal law that the courts had upheld! Barton may lack honesty, but he certainly has some cojones! This isn’t a lie about some obscure document like his ships’ papers lie that he got away with for years by simply not revealing exactly what the document was. This guy actually thinks he’s going to get away with lying about the freakin’ Alien and Sedition Acts, something that anyone who has studied American history in even the slightest depth would know all about.

Here’s a transcription of what Barton said:

“Jefferson has a long record of not doing presidential things that he disagrees with. The Alien and Sedition Acts were a federally passed law. We have twenty-four guys sitting in jail because the courts enforced it. Jefferson disagreed with it. He took all twenty-four out of jail. He refused to enforce the law. Anything he disagrees with he doesn’t do. If he had trouble with that [the way the ships' papers were dated], it’s a government printer.”

By the time that Jefferson took office, the Sedition Act had expired. Jefferson, of course, opposed this act, but this had nothing to do with him freeing anybody who was imprisoned under it. The Sedition Act had been passed by Jefferson’s Federalist political rivals and signed by John Adams in 1798 to keep Jefferson’s Republican political supporters from writing anything bad about the Federalist Adams administration! The act’s expiration date was March 3, 1801, the last day before the end of Adams’s term as president. Jefferson didn’t have to stand up to anyone to free anybody!

And there weren’t even twenty-four prisoners even when there actually were prisoners. There were only ten men who were even convicted under the act to begin with, and even fewer who were actually put in jail, with the longest sentence being eighteen months, and the rest being much shorter than that. I’m pretty sure that James Callender, who would later turn on Jefferson and publish the Sally Hemings story, was the only one actually still in jail when the act expired on March 3, 1801. The rest  (with the exception of one other who had finished serving his actual sentence months before Jefferson took office, but didn’t have the money to pay the fine he had also gotten) had been freed long before Jefferson became president.

And, as I explained in my “No, Mr Beck …” video above, Jefferson couldn’t have changed the wording of the date on this form even if he had wanted to. The language was mandated by an international treaty from 1782 and had to appear exactly as it did in a document annexed to that treaty, and the language was written by a country that was a Christian nation, so that’s how they dated it.

I’m sure that a few more whoppers await us as Barton continues to weasel out of this little predicament he’s gotten himself into, particularly since this was only the first of what will be several appearances on Glenn Beck’s show. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!




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  1. 1

    I honestly can’t decide if he’s just in it for the money, if really he believes what he’s saying, or if he’s just against those who disagree so strongly that he must stick with what he said. Any or all seem to be possible..

  2. 2

    Maybe its just wishful thinking on my part; but don’t you think that maybe Barton was looking just a little bit stressed out in that video and uncomfortable with his presentation? Particularly just after the 0:40 point. And how about Beck? He didn’t seem to be very enthusiastic about being in this little get-together. I can keep hoping, can’t I?

  3. 3

    He’s in it to advance the pathetic political agenda of the religious right. . . And the money. . .

  4. 4
    Chris Rodda

    No, it’s not just wishful thinking. I was just saying on Facebook that this was the first time I’ve ever seen him look nervous – not so much in that little clip I used in my post, but at the beginning of the show.

  5. 5

    The Sedition Act had been passed by Jefferson’s Federalist political rivals and signed by John Adams in 1798 to keep Jefferson’s Republican political supporters from writing anything bad about the Federalist Adams administration!

    This may be another lie. If I recall correctly, the contemporary U.S. Republican Party didn’t come into existence until the 1850s, mostly over the issue of slavery (to be more precise, over the issue of allowing slavery in the territories).

    Jefferson’s party was the Democratic Republican Party, and really has no relation to today’s Republican Party. If I recall correctly, today’s U.S. Democaratic Party is a direct descendant of one of the factions of Jefferson’s party.

  6. 6
    Ace of Sevens

    @5: Barton is technically correct, but being misleading. Whiel we refer to Jefferson’s party as the Democratic-Republicans today to avoid confusion, at the time, they were known as the Republican party. Wikipedia has the whole story.


  7. 7
    Chris Rodda

    Huh? That’s not something Barton said. That’s something *I* said. They called themselves Republicans, Democrats, or technically Democratic-Republicans, so any of those terms is correct, but most historians just use Republicans.

  8. 8

    Another lie that should be easy to check is that Barton says that other President’s didn’t sign documents with that salutation. Well that should be easy to check. Also – if Jefferson was signing documents that didn’t say “year of our lord christ” why didn’t he fix those?

    I’ve noticed one of Barton’s main tactics is to lie by omission. If it is only ships’ papers that Jefferson Signs that way – what does that say about Jefferson’s beliefs?

    That letter to Washington that is Quoted in the response to Rick Green (http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mtj.mtjbib008472)…all of it in Jefferson’s Hand…signed with no reference to Christ – Next letter? no Christ. Dates? They are Monticello, not Christ.

    If the only documents in existence where Jefferson signs YoLChrist are the preprinted Ships’ papers then Jefferson was not all fired up to sign things in Christs’ name. duh

  9. 9

    Not to be to pedantic, but he kept talking about the appellation, “In the year of our lord Jesus christ..” I don’t think appellation means what he thinks it means.

  10. 10

    At the Library of Congress, I am not seeing any Ships’ papers for online looking – And LOC collections are way too far away for me to access in person. Looks like they have 52 of them from 18th century and lots more from the 19th but they are manuscript items.

    There is this one http://media.liveauctiongroup.net/i/4487/6009585_1.jpg?v=8C8AF7B472B8F70

    not the best picture And Jefferson signed it without the Christ part…bummer Mr. Barton (if that is your real name).

  11. 11
    Chris Rodda

    kantaloe @ 8 … I DID debunk that one … a long time ago … watch the first video in my post!

  12. 12

    I have to confess that I have signed some documents labeled “AD.” That’s not, however, an admission that I believe in Domini or am a conservative, fundamentalist Christian.

    I don’t get what Barton’s game is here. Is he trying to get the Texas BOE to add some Jefferson back into their history standards? It’s all so weird.

  13. 13
    W. Kevin Vicklund

    Here’s a transcription of what Barton said:

    “When Jefferson freed the men imprisoned under the Sedition Act, the act had expired. Jefferson, of course, opposed this act, but this had nothing to do with him freeing those who were imprisoned under it. The Sedition Act had been passed by Jefferson’s Federalist political rivals and signed by John Adams in 1798 to keep Jefferson’s Republican political supporters from writing anything bad about the Federalist Adams administration! The act’s expiration date was March 3, 1801, the last day before the end of Adams’s term as president. So, as soon as Jefferson took office he naturally freed the prisoners. He didn’t have to stand up to anyone to do this!”

    Wait, what? That’s not what Barton actually said. I think your post got truncated – your comment @7 is further evidence. Might want to check on that. Seems like you meant to give the Barton quote, followed by a FTFY.

  14. 14
    Chris Rodda

    OMG … it is ENTIRELY fucked up!!! I have no idea how!! The original file is fine!! Crap … I removed the end and am fixing it right now.

  15. 15

    Hehe, I know you could debunk it! But my old Mac bonks on most videos and I wanted to see if I could. It took about 20 minutes. ;-)

  16. 16
    Chris Rodda

    FIXED!!! :::scratches head saying how the hell did that happen?:::

  17. 17

    I have come to the conclusion that the entirety of the religious right is a quantum tesseract matrix of verifiable falsehoods.

    Of course, I read that and it sounds too Deepak Chopra.

    I may have taken too many narcotics.

  18. 18
    W. Kevin Vicklund

    I’m pretty sure that James Callender, who would later turn on Jefferson and publish the Sally Hemings story, was the only one actually still in jail when the act expired on March 3, 1801.

    I am trying to track down the conviction dates and lengths of sentence for those ten convicted. Of the five I’ve confirmed, only Callender’s sentence extended past the expiration of the Act. He was sentenced to 9 months prison on June 4, 1800. Which means his sentence was due to expire on March 4, 1801. The same day Jefferson became President.

    What an act of defiance, to pardon a man on the day he was due to be released from prison!

  19. 19
    Chris Rodda

    I think five probably is the number who actually did time. The rest of the ten who were convicted were only fined. There was one guy who only served like six hours, so we won’t count him. There was one who was sentenced to eighteen months, but the rest were only sentenced to a few months. I’m sure that except for Callender they were all out before the law expired at the end of Adams’s term, since they were convicted in 1798 and 1799 and the sentences were in months, not years. The number twenty-four that Barton uses was the number who were arrested, but fourteen of those twenty-four were not convicted. Only ten were.

  20. 20
    W. Kevin Vicklund

    Matthew Lyon, released Feb 9 1799

    Thomas Cooper, released Oct 8, 1800

    James Callendar, sentenced 9 months June 4, 1800, pardoned by Jefferson

    Anthony Haswell, released a few days after July 4, 1800

    David Brown, 18 month sentence expired end of 1800, couldn’t afford the $480 fine, and remained incarcerated until pardoned by Jefferson (appeal twice rejected by Adams).

    Well, that’s two so far (four more yet to be identified). One who was due to be released the same day, and one who had already served his sentence but couldn’t pay the fine.

  21. 21
    Chris Rodda

    Yeah, I wasn’t sure about Brown. That’s why I said in my post that I was “pretty sure” that Callender was the only one left when the law expired. But I didn’t bother looking up all the details because it doesn’t matter whether it was one or two. IT WASN’T TWENTY-FOUR!

    But the main point is that why Barton is using this in the first place. He’s using it as an example of Jefferson standing up to other parts of the government as his “evidence” that Jefferson would have stood up to the printer and demanded that “in the year of our Lord Christ” be removed from the ships’ papers. This is, first of all, just a ridiculous comparison. And, second, Barton’s example of Jefferson standing up to some other part of the government by releasing the Sedition Act prisoners from jail never happened. The law was expired, and he didn’t have to stand up to anybody about anything.

  22. 22

    The reaction of the faithful to the debunking of Barton reminds me of when they get to one of those End of the World prophecies that does not come true: they double down.

  23. 23

    “In May 2010, someone else who’s been writing some blog posts about Barton for the past couple of years puts out a little book refuting The Jefferson Lies, and includes a bunch of the lies that I had debunked in my book and my videos between 2006 and 2010.”

    Publish or perish.

  24. 24
    Chris Rodda

    nomennescio … I’m glad you posted that because you made me catch a typo. That should have been May 2012.

    As far as your “Publish or perish” crack goes, what exactly do you man by that? Should I have put out a half-ass book to get my debunking of Barton’s book out faster? I also could have thrown together what the authors of that little book that’s out there now refuting Barton threw together in a month. But I decided to take a few more months and actually research and debunk all the new lies that Barton used in his Jefferson book that he hadn’t used before, rather than just taking the easy route to be the first one out with something.

  25. 25
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    What an odd interview.

    I think first of all that David Barton is a compulsive liar. Time after time he’s been caught lying about things he doesn’t need to lie about. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performance from him that didn’t contain lies.

    I think Beck is realizing that people are catching on to Barton’s compulsive lying. I mean, obviously Beck knows that he’s a liar, how could he not? But I think Beck is starting to realize just how self-destructive Barton’s inability to say the truth for two minutes straight really is. He has to (at this point) be seeing Barton as more of a liability than an asset. That’s why he’s so unenthusiastic.

    Also, Barton talking about this form letter sounds a little bit like admitting he was wrong about something, which we know Beck can never do. In the Republican world, no matter how many times you lie, you’re never a liar until you admit that you lied.

  26. 26
    Chris Rodda

    OK … the weird stuff with this post getting all jumbled up and the missing paragraph and corrections I thought I’d made not showing up appears not to be an isolated thing. I just had pretty much the same thing happen in an email I was typing … like when I was just going to delete an extra line break between two paragraphs, the whole bottom paragraph kept jumping up above the top paragraph. I thought I must have just hit something wrong so I tried it several times, and it kept happening. I thought I was losing my mind last night! I never make that many mistakes in a single post no matter HOW tired I am. Not that I’m happy that I appear to have a computer issue, but that’s better than thinking I had completely lost my ability to read and type!

  27. 27

    Chris, you didn’t comment on another Barton claim in that clip: that if Jefferson hadn’t liked the language, he could have had the government printing office whip up some new forms without “In the Year of Our Lord Christ.” Based on what I remember of your “No, Mr. Beck” video, that would have been quite impossible, since these were the internationally recognized forms, and the U.S. was in no position to supply its own. True?

  28. 28

    Chris are you using a laptop? I find that on some laptops when I rest my palms below the keypad it causes some weird stuff to happen. I think that the touchpad gets distorted.

  29. 29
    Chris Rodda

    jeffreykramer @ 27 … You are absolutely right! I should have mentioned that in my text at the end! It’s in the first video in the post (which actually is the same video you’re remembering me saying it from), but I really should have repeated it at the end in the text, too.

    Maybe I’ll go back and add it when I get a chance later. I can’t change anything on HuffPo, where it’s also posted, but I can change it here in all the other places I cross-posted it.

    While I’m so busy finishing up my book (it’s getting very close!), I want people to do what jeffreykramer just did. If you see something in one of my posts where I could have done something better, TELL ME! I’m not putting the same level of thought into my posts right now that I usually do, and might not think of something I should have included, like I just did here.

  30. 30
    Chris Rodda

    OK … I just went and added a couple of sentences about Jefferson not being able to change it because of the treaty, and saying I explained that in the video. Thanks for remembering what I said in my videos even better than I do, jeffreykramer! ;-)

  31. 31
    Chris Rodda

    I also decided to add a parenthetical note about the guy who had finished serving his actual sentence before Jefferson took office, but was still in jail because he couldn’t pay his fine.

    h/t to W. Kevin Vicklund for going and looking up all the individual sentences. That’s the kind of stuff I don’t have time to do right now, so other people going and doing it and posting it in the comments is much appreciated!

  32. 32

    It seems that tellign lie after lie after lie is something Barton and Romney have in common. And golly, they aren’t even the same religion. ;)

  33. 33

    The people who buy his books don’t care about Barton’s lies; they base their lives on a book that his chock full of lies.

  34. 34

    Even if we accepted Barton’s characterization of the second lie, he was still being disingenuous with the first lie: There’s a big difference between writing out the word “Christ” vs. not bothering to have a document changed so as to remove the word “Christ”. Yeesh….

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